I've been thinking a lot about the term "building around your star player." A lot of franchises talk about doing it and I am sure that most of the teams that have a superstar player try their hardest to do so. Last season I was chatting with one of my Jazz fan buddies and he wondered how you can best build around Deron Williams? How do you maximize his talent?
-I asked the question on twitter and right now it's pretty obvious to Jazz fans that Deron needs another guy who can pick up the scoring slack consistently. The usual suspects came up: Andre Iguodala, Gerald Wallace, and Danny Granger. I think those names are sexy because they are rumored to be available, not because they would help. I mean, they would probably help, but they seem more like a first aid kit when what the Jazz need is surgery.
-So how would you build around Deron? First I would find him one scorer who can help carry the scoring load. The scorer needs to be efficient and needs to be able to create for himself without Deron having to do the work. This hypothetical scorer would probably work better off the wing, but could be a big man as well. I think it's the hardest piece to find, but they are out there. Kevin Martin is my favorite option. I would trade any Jazz guy other than Deron or Millsap for him. And maybe even Millsap. Martin might be hard to acquire but he'll become available sometime in the next couple seasons, I feel. I still hope. There are other guys. Corey Maggette is aging, but could be had. The Jazz have targeted him before. Danny Granger is the best scorer out of himself, Iguodala, and Wallace. He could be that guy. Carlos Boozer and CJ Miles do not fit in this mold, sadly. Wesley Matthews wasn't that guy either. I would work hard to acquire Kevin Martin, even at many costs. Give the Rockets 3 first round picks along with a player of their choosing. It's not like the Jazz can use 1st round picks anyways.
-The next most important part is to land a big man who can rebound and play defense. A "franchise" center would be great, but the Jazz don't need a guy to score very much, if they have a "go-to" scorer other than Deron. Franchise centers are almost impossible to find, even in the draft, but big men who will just defend the paint and get rebounds? They are available every once in awhile. Look at Francisco Elson. Minimum NBA wage and he's a very versatile defender. And guys like Kendrick Perkins can do it for championship teams. He knows his role. The Jazz can find a Kendrick Perkins type player.
-Speaking of franchise centers, I can't think of a better NBA fit than Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Both are two of the best defenders at their positions and Deron is really an elite passer off the pick and roll and down into the post in general. Alley oops, bounce passes in traffic...they'd be unstoppable. On top of that, their personalities might work perfectly together. One is a moody guy who wants to win; the other is a funny, laid back guy who wants to win. Is there a better combo than those two? I can't think of one.
-Finally, I would surround Deron with long, athletic wing players, preferably ones who can shoot the 3 pointer. These are actually the easiest to find. Just find athletes who are willing to defend and run the floor. The Jazz might already have 3 players who fit this bill. CJ Miles is likely one and Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans could very well become ones. And Mehmet Okur is in the top 3 in terms of bigs who can be stretch shooters. The d-league is also a place to find these types of players. But if you surround Deron with 3 point makers, then he is going to get open driving lanes and assists. Raja Bell is a nice defender/3 point shooter at a cheap price tag. So is Arron Afflalo. I just hope Deron stays long enough to find out how fun it will be to run the floor with Jeremy Evans in two years...
-Ronnie Brewer was not everyone's favorite shooting guard, but the guy got the Jazz 6-10 points a game on layups and dunks, with at least one basket usually coming off a sweet alley-oop dunk assisted by Deron himself. Jazz fans like to blame Deron for the lack of getting out and running, but he has never been a one man fast break. Who on this team can run a good fast break? AK, Miles to a degree, Hayward, Earl Watson and Ronnie Price. That's really about it.
-So have the Jazz put the best teams around Deron to maximize his talent? Probably not. Honestly they have done an amazing job, but this year's team just might not have the right ingredients to make a great recipe. Another scorer to shoulder the load? It's just not there. Millsap is the closest thing to it and only a small minority of Jazz fans think he can be it. And by small minority, I mean about 3
-Do the Jazz have a big man who can find satisfaction in just playing great defense and getting rebounds? I wish I could say that Al jefferson was that guy, but he isn't and nothing about this season suggests that he will be. Mehmet Okur isn't that guy, bless his heart. This type of player continues to elude the Jazz.
-The Jazz have some shooters and athletes. Not enough of them, but they do have them. I have always felt and still feel like CJ Miles needs to focus on two things. Shoot open threes and get out and run. It's his niche. He can't create for himself, but he can get hot and he should be getting 5 or 6 points a game on fast breaks minimum. Hayward runs the break nicely and could become a great shooter from distance. Mehmet Okur still has one of the sweetest strokes on the team. He needs to shoot the 3 ball. Deron loves finding him.
-This whole thought process leads me to one large conclusion: Guys need to find their roles. Millsap and Jefferson are in similar situations. If they aren't the "go-to scorer" that the Jazz need, then they need to focus more on getting rebounds and playing defense. And if you don't think that they are capable of filling one of these roles exclusively, then the Jazz probably need to move one and try to acquire the piece they need. The biggest problem I see with Al jefferson right now is that he creates his own offense. He gets the ball and he does his low post work and creates a shot. Sometimes he is really on. He has had a handful of great offensive performances in second halves especially, but Jefferson's game doesn't really utilize Deron's strength as a creator and assist man. The way Jefferson plays offense, it wouldn't really matter if Deron or CJ Watson was his point guard. Jefferson doesn't really complement Deron at all in a lot of ways.
-The bottom line is that the front office has failed to build to Deron's strengths this season. Maybe they need to take a step back and see what they really need and proceed accordingly. It's either going to happen from trades or from lottery picks in a couple of seasons.